Guest Author - Christine Blachford
To be allowed on the grid in Formula 1, a driver must be equipped with a Superlicence. The requirements are a certain amount of money and for a driver to have completed a specified amount of miles in an F1 car, usually through testing.
During 2007, the FIA announced a severe price hike in the cost of a Superlicence, with the basic cost rising from under €2,000, to €10,000. On top of that, a driver has to pay depending on how many points he scored the previous year. It was under €500 per point, but rose to over €2,000. That means for the 2008 season, Hamilton will be paying almost €220,000 for his fee, whilst Sutil will pay just over €1,300.
Numbers aside, the first problem with this is that it makes no sense for the driver who has the most experience, drove safely enough to score more points than anyone else, and probably grabbed himself a championship, has to pay more. What is it about a point that means you have to fork out more money? It's arguable that those who score less points should pay more, because the chances are they are slower, more prone to accidents. That's a sweeping generalisation, obviously, but it doesn't make sense for a rookie to pay so much less than a defending champion. Perhaps it would be fairer for there to be a standard fee, no matter how much experience you have.
The next problem is that it seems like an awful lot of money for what is essentially an admin and insurance policy. The GPDA have written a letter to Max Mosley and said that drivers don't have a problem paying for a licence, but it seems very unfair for them to become another revenue stream for the FIA. This seems to be a fair and valid point, but the FIA have responded saying that the fee isn't going to be changed.
In some cases, probably all, the licence fee is payed for by the teams that employ the driver. It seems a waste of time for a team with a big budget, employing a driver with a massive salary to complain about a relatively small cost like this. But as with most things in Formula 1, it's the principal that is at stake, and at the moment, it's not clear who is going to win this battle of wills.